In “The War of Art”, the author Stephen Pressfield talks about “The Resistance” — and how it is the biggest obstacle to all of our artistic pursuits and endeavors.
We can encounter “The Resistance” in many ways in our life. We encounter it when we want to start our own business (and we have thoughts of self doubt), we encounter it when we want to start exercising more (but the resistance keeps us from leaving our house), and we encounter it when we want to go out to social functions (we are nervous of meeting new people, and would prefer to stay at home).
It is totally normal to face “The Resistance”. After all— as humans we have evolved to be lazy, in order to conserve energy. We like to take mental shortcuts (often called “heuristics”) which make our lives easier (especially living in such a complex world and society).
But ultimately if your goal of a street photographer is to make beautiful art, you need to fight past this resistance.
We all have the resistance when it comes to street photography. This kind of resistance manifests itself in many different ways.
I think one of the biggest forms of resistance we face is to go out and shoot photos. I know this first hand— I am pretty lazy. If I don’t have a friend to meet up and go shooting or something like that, I won’t really go out and shoot. I like staying at home in front of my beloved computer and inside my warm and cozy house. I know I should make more photos, but it is hard for me to stay motivated.
I am sure that many of you face similar struggles— after a long day of work, it is hard to stay motivated go out and shoot. How do I stay motivated and shoot on a daily basis? Here are some strategies that have worked well with me:
1. Aim to take one photo a day
I once heard a story of a man who wanted to get into shape, and the thought of losing 20 pounds seemed too daunting.
Therefore he decided to undertake a much more reasonable plan: just aim to do one pushup a day.
However this small little habit began to stack upon itself. When he would go down to just do one pushup, that one pushup would lead to 10 pushups. And soon before he knew it, he was able to crank out 50 pushups in a row— and transformed his fitness.
I think in photography it can be quite daunting to aim to become a “better” photographer. How can we quantify that?
I think the only and best way to become a better photographer is to take more photos. I know a lot of us have hard and busy lives which makes it hard to go out for hours at a time to make photos. However I think we can all aim to take at least 1 photo a day.
For me, I also try to aim to take 1 photo a day. Then that habit starts to stack— that 1 photo turns into 2 photos, then turns to 10+ photos, and then I start thinking more consciously about making photos.
I also take this approach to writing. I have a lot of ideas swirling around my head constantly in terms of what I want to write for this blog. But the problem is that the idea of writing 1,000+ words (everyday) is quite daunting. Therefore I have also incorporated this idea: try to write at least one sentence a day.
This goal is much more manageable to me— and has helped me become more much motivated and productive. In-fact, that is how I started this article— I had to fight “the resistance” to write the first sentence. But after the first sentence, the words just flow off my fingertips quite easily.
So therefore don’t overburden yourself with the daunting task of becoming a “great” photographer. Just try to improve your photography, day-over-day, one photo at a time.
2. Have a photo buddy
I think one of the new years’ resolutions everyone has is to go to the gym more often. But how do you stay motivated to go to the gym everyday?
When I was in college and needed to stay motivated to go to the gym (especially super early in the morning, around 6am), I needed social accountability. If I had a “gym buddy” who would go to the gym at the same time as I would, I would make sure to get my ass into the gym at 6am (or else I would let him down).
I also heard in the military the reason why soldiers work so hard and don’t give up is because they don’t want to let down their teammates.
So similarly — I think having a “photo buddy” is a great way to stay motivated in street photography. When I spend too much time alone, I don’t have as much motivation to go out and shoot, to edit my photos, or brainstorm new ideas. But whenever I meet up my photography friends, suddenly all these new ideas start swirling around my head — and I feel motivated and excited.
You don’t need a ton of “photo buddies” — just 1 or 2 other photographers who are local is all you need. Try calling up this photo buddy once a week to hang out, go out and shoot, to edit and critique each others’ work, share photography books, and more.
3. Create an environment conducive to your photography
I think we often undervalue how much effect our environment has in our lives. For example, the way we decorate and arrange our house is often a huge reflection of who we are and what we value. Not only that, but the way we arrange our house hugely influences our behavior.
For example, if I want to lose weight and I have Snickers bars and donuts lying around the house— you can bet your ass I am not going to lose weight.
Similarly, if you are addicted to video games and you have your consoles constantly plugged in— you aren’t going to stop playing video games.
Therefore if you want to live healthier, you might want to throw away the unhealthy food and stock your fridge with healthier foods. If you want to read more books, leave more books randomly lying around the house— so you would pick them up by chance and read more.
Similarly I think if you want to be more inspired to shoot and pursue photography— create an ideal “photographer’s environment” by arranging or decorating your home in different ways.
For example, you can put a bookshelf in your living room with your favorite photography books, and have a comfortable reading chair or couch next to it. Always have a stack of photography books sitting on a coffee table or a side-table, which will beckon you to pick it up. And whenever you read that photography book, you will be inspired to go out and shoot.
Similarly, you can have Lightroom as a shortcut on your laptop— which will beckon you to always look at your photos, think about your photos, and edit them.
Another great tip I have read from a lot of the master photographers is this: print out your photos as small 4×6 prints, and tape them on your wall (or thumb-tack them to a cork board). Start to “live with your photos” — and the photos that you really like you will continue to hang up. And the photos you don’t like you will end up taking down (one of the best ways to edit down your photos).
If you want to shoot more, perhaps you can put your camera next to your car keys near your front door. Even better: put your camera in your work bag, or even in your shoes (you will never forget to carry your camera with you).
Also I have found the smaller your camera— the more likely you are to carry it around with you everywhere you go, and therefore the more likely you are to shoot with your camera everyday. So if you have a big-ass DSLR or some cumbersome camera, I recommend picking up a smaller camera for street photography like the Fujifilm x100T (read my review here) or the Ricoh GR (read my review here). Or even better— you can always use your smartphone to shoot street photography as well.
I think we all want to make more photos. We rarely have enough time to go out and shoot, and we struggle to stay inspired.
But I do believe that if we create positive habits, we can continue to stay inspired, and create the photos we want to create and be happy. So keep trucking forward, try to shoot everyday, and thrive.
Related articles you might like
If you liked this article, I recommend also reading these articles:
- Keep Shooting or Die
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Street Photographers
- How to Avoid Boredom in Street Photography
- The “One Street Photograph a Day” Challenge
- How to Master the Creative Process in Street Photography
How do you stay motivated and inspired in your street photography? Share your tips and advice in the comments below!